Monthly Archives: January 2016

We recently got a vinyl cutter at The Foundery.  After a quick test run, cutting out some Foundery Logo stickers, I figured I’d move onto a real value-added application….a vinyl sticker featuring my face!


The software I used for this was all free or commonly available.

  • Microsoft Power Point
  • Gimp (free)
  • Inkscape (free)

I think you could accomplish this entirely with Inkscape but since I’m not that tech savvy and love to make tasks harder than they need to be, this was how I did it.

The first step was taking a nice picture of myself.  Since I’m so photogenic this step was really easy.  I could have had my wife taken the photo for me, but she was REALLY against the idea of me making a vinyl sticker of my self.  Her response when I asked her to take my picture was something on the order of “Damn it corey! you just really love yourself don’t you!”.  At first I didn’t know if that was a “yes” or a “no”…it was a “no”.

The next step after deciding on which super awesome selfie to use, was to copy-paste the image in Power Point so I could remove the background

Format > Remove Background



Once the background was removed I right clicked on the image and saved-as a JPEG file.

Once I had the image as a JPEG without the background, I imported the image into GIMP to convert to black and white and customize the contrast.  Gimp is a photo editing tool similar to photoshop, but entirely free!  We use Gimp regularly at The Foundery for modifying photo’s for laser or plasma cutting.

First step in Gimp was to remove any part of the remaining image that I didn’t want in the vinyl sticker.  For this photo, I had to remove any part below my chin area using the lasso feature in the tool box (see arrow in below image)


Once I had the image cropped down to what I wanted in the photo, I used the threshold feature in Gimp (Colors > threshold).  Using the slide bar in the threshold tool you can adjust the contrast to highlight the features you want the sticker to be comprised of.  The trick is to remove enough features while still leaving the important components.


Once the image represents what the vinyl sticker should look like, you’ll need to save that image as a new JPEG file.  Right now we still have an image file which we’ll then need to convert into a file type that the vinyl cutter can read as a cut path.  The technical term is “vector graphic”.  Right now the image we have created is the type of image you would send to a common printer.  The common printer goes line by line dropping ink to create the image.  When cutting an image on a vinyl cutter, the cutter needs just the profile of the image to cut out, which will create our image.  That’s what is called a “vector graphic”.  The go-to file type for a vector image is a .dxf file.  ANY computer controlled cutting system can read a .dxf file.  CNC laser cutters, vinyl cutters, plasma, waterjet, routers, they ALL will read a .dxf file.

To create my vector file I used Inkscape.  It’s free and a must-have for all hobbyists.  Anytime I buy a new PC, the first software I’ll install is Inkscape and Gimp.  With Inkscape, open the image file created in Gimp.  Don’t worry about sizing the image throughout these steps.  You can size the image when you go to cut it out on the vinyl cutter.

Using Inkscape, go to Path > Trace Bitmap.  When the Trace Bitmap toolbox opens, check the box for “Edge Detection”.  This will trace the image and create a new image of just the outline of our picture. You can adjust the threshold of the Edge Detection to change how much roughness the Edge Detection will smooth out.  The smoother the better but you don’t wan’t to lose any important detail.


When Inscape creates the new edge-detected image it’s placed overtop the existing image so you might not see it.  You’ll have to click on the image an drag it over to the side.  You can delete the original image and just leave the newly created outlined image.


And that’s pretty much it!  Just go to Save-As in Inkscape and select .dxf as the file type and BOOM!  You’ll have the vector file that you can open in any vinyl cutting software to cut out.  Looking at the profile picture doesn’t really look like the image, but once it’s cut out on vinyl it will look exactly like the image created in Gimp.

Start thinking of custom vinyl sticker ideas you’ll want to cut-out, in a couple months you’ll be able to swing by The Foundery to use our vinyl cutter to cut out anything you can think of.  Corn-hole Board decals?

— Corey

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We have been acquiring lots of new tools (read: toys) for the space over the past few weeks. Many of them we have found through secondhand sources. That means they may come in our door looking a little worse for wear, but it also means we have more money to spend on some new, specialized equipment for members (like the OMAX Waterjet). So, Corey and I have been sharpening our restoration skills and seeing that a little TLC can go a long way!

Check out some of the transformations:

The Acorn Table

This is our large welding table. I could probably write a whole blog post about how awesome it is, but I will save that for another time and just show you some makeover pictures! We wire brushed the top of it and masked it off to paint the sides. We only wire brushed the letters on the sides of the table.

Here is the top half-way through cleaning it off:


Before shot of the sides of the table (the top is masked off at this point):


And after – what a difference paint makes!:



The Air Receiver

This was already primed when we acquired it:


125-eb023b11-b2a4-455c-872c-204e5ee73844  125-b0937181-8f1f-4a68-90b8-4c6494c40eed

I guess we will have to call it Big Bird now!

Moving along in our makeovers – lets get into some more detailed restoration. We found a machine shop in Baltimore having a big auction, with some awesome machines up for grabs. We ended up leaving with two big material storage racks as well as some little work stations and our two most exciting finds – a Jet metal shear and a Tennsmith metal finger brake.

The Jet Metal Shear

Here is a look at the shear before we moved it to our space:


Dinged up, bent in, and generally not to easy on the eyes. It works like a charm though! We wiped it down and cleaned off the years of gunk that had built up on the surface.

Here is an intermediate shot, it is a little blurry but it shows how rusty the work surface was before we cleaned it up. At this stage, we had removed the face sheet metal and finger guard.


Next up, we wire brushed the rust off of the work surface to make the steel nice and shiny again and found that, yep, indeed, this tool goes to 11 (4+4+3, we can’t make this stuff up!):


Then it was time to remove accessories and mask off our newly clean surface so we could paint the rest of it:


We got the paint color matched at our local paint store. Jason and I like to call it “Baby Puke White” while Corey likes to call it “Not that Bad” and I guess it was originally called “Jet White.” Now for the fun part!

Here it is after the full-body paint makeover.


Now that’s a good looking machine! Let’s go through the rest of the accessories and their makeovers as well.

It was pretty easy to sway Jason and Corey into keeping the sweet colorful retro design on the front of the shear, we just touched it up a bit. We also did some quick hammer work to straighten out the dings and bends in the sheet.



The paint was pretty scratched up. We masked off each of the colors and re-painted them:


After allowing for proper drying time between paint colors and coats, we masked off the whole design and gave the rest of the metal a new coat of baby puke – I mean Jet White.


And a shot of the other accessories getting made over (I forgot to take a picture of the yellow finger guard, but you will see it in the final picture):


Such a lovely shade.

Now for the final reveal!


Awesome! Right? Restored to its full 1985 glory. That’s right, this baby is 31 years old…its been cutting metal for longer than I have been alive!

The Tennsmith Finger Brake

Okay so I don’t have a full shot for a “BEFORE” picture, but I do have a close up comparison between the clean side and the dirty side, so you will have to use your imagination from there.


As you can see, it was pretty grimy. We also decided to clean each of the ‘fingers,’ here is how they looked before:


Look what I found on Google – this isn’t OUR brake but this is pretty much what it looked like before we cleaned it up:


We wire brushed all of the fingers and gave them a nice coat of glossy clear:


Having fingers on a shear is great becuase you can adjust the size of the bend that you need. If you only want 2 inches of a piece of sheet bent, you can do it! You have a lot of adjustability with fingers, which means more projects to think up 😉

Now check out the “AFTER” shot of it!


Not too shabby! We also cleaned the weight (upper left hand corner of picture above) and painted it glossy clear. It was white before, I think clear really makes it look sleeker! I’m a big fan of (seemingly) bare steel.

I think I have just made the longest blog post ever so I will leave it at that.

How do you think we did on the makeovers? Have any questions about the process? Let us know in the comments below!

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Any good Maker-Space should expect members to be working on leading edge electrical projects.  Electronics prototyping has always been a hobby of mine, so I wanted to make sure that our electronics work stations are top of the line and have everything I would want in a work station;)

So in the true American way of “thinking about myself”, I want to make sure our work stations could accommodate soldering, breadboard prototyping, and electronics testing.  I want all the possible tools within plain sight, and within and arms reach, lot’s of electrical outlets and tons of light.  When choosing solutions for storage or work surfaces for The Foundery, it’s always a debate whether we should build or buy.  Choosing electronic work stations was no different.  We’d all love to slap a “Made in Baltimore” sticker on everything in here but we’re a small team with a lot on our plate these days.  Doing some research I found that I could buy 60″ work benches from Alibaba for $700 Made-in-China benches, U-line had the 60″ benches at $1500 each which were also probably Made in China but sold in US (for what that’s worth).

We wanted 4 people to be able to work at a time on these, so we would need 4x of the 60″ benches…that’s pricey.  I did some number crunching and figured we could build 2 x 8ft electrical benches for $500.  And that was all I needed to convince Jason it was a no-brainer to build our own custom benches.

So in typical engineering style, I 3D modeled the benches just to show off my CAD skills.  See below!



The features I considered to be must-have’s include:

  • 30″ depth
  • upper shelf to hold power supplies and oscilloscopes
  • back board for part bins and tool hooks
  • foot rest
  • overhead bar for mounting LED work lights.
  • 39″ work height so that members can work while standing or sitting on a stool.
  • 20 power outlets in case a member needs to power a Chevy Chase style Christmas light display.

The final overall dimensions of the electrical benches were 8ft in Length x 2.5ft deep and 8 ft high made from 2″ square 14 gage steel….yes that’s correct.  8FT TALL, 14 gage steel!  You could do pull-ups from the overhead light bar if needed.  Given how competitive Jason is, there’s always a chance of a pull-up competition breaking out.

Here’s a pic of me standing next to the first tack-welded side member of the electronics bench.

Audrey’s getting really proficient at squaring up and welding these box beam structures so the full frames of these benches came together in just a few hours.  Here’s a pic of the completed frame.

For the bench surface we decided on two sheets of 3/4″ MDF glued together.  This would give a nice smooth and rigid work surface that could hold paint well.  We’ll be putting Electro Static Discharge (ESD) mats on top to protect sensitive electronics from electro-static damage.

Below is a picture of a finished bench with peg-board, overhead lights, work surface and shelf installed.

We plan to use the peg board for storing wire-strippers, electrical tape, crimpers and bins for terminal lugs and so on.  I’ve spent a lot of time on electronic work benches and these will be a luxury to work at.  We tested the overhead lights and ensured that there are no shadows on the work bench surface.  Below you can see the power strip with 20x outlets.



And in typical Corey fashion, it wouldn’t be a true finished project until something goes wrong.  My wife probably won’t believe this, but after finishing the first bench, I grabbed a floor broom to sweep off the wood dust from the work surface. Being super focused on doing the worlds best sweeping job, I lost track of the butt of the broom 3 feet above my head and stuck the broom pole strait through the bench light’s diffuser…


I wish you had seen Audrey’s face when she realized what I had just done.  She probably thinks I did it on purpose to get out of any future sweeping tasks  (like when I melted the kids plate in the dishwasher so my wife would never trust me to load the dishwasher again).

An easy fix though, the replacement diffuser is already on it’s way!  I’m super happy with how these benches turned out.  They are probably the word’s largest and strongest electrical benches.

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We moved into our new space. We knew there were some projects to knock out, and we figured it would only take a few days to do them. Little did we know we were about to embark on an eight-day-long, five-person project. Thats a lot of resources! Luckily for us, this project coincided with winter break…so we had some college student help! This may have been the dirtiest, heaviest job we’ve done to date.

In the space is a 100 foot drain, covered in 44 cast iron grates. These grates were caked with years of who knows what….

Jason had the grate idea (pun definitely intended) to make the drainage ditch light up! Corey did a practice run in his garage and declared it would only take two people about 3 days to complete. Seemed reasonable until we got going.

Not only were the grates caked in crud, but the drainage ditch below it had about an inch of accumulated debris as well. Our first task was to clean, clean, clean the grates. We had the college students practice their dental skills and use hand-held wire brushes to clean out all the slots in the grates.

Then, we used an angle grinder to wire brush the remainder of the surface. We went through about 15 wire brush attachments. It was a dirty job. After the grates were clean, we flipped them upside down and started filling the slots with resin. This was not an easy task because each of the grates weighed about 100 lbs. Check out our set-up:

The grates are on top of camping mats to act as a gasket….which you can see wasn’t totally fool-proof. The camping mats are covered in saran-wrap, which made the grates come up easily after the resin had cured. Once we figured a system out, and cleaned all the grates off, we maxed out at being able to pour 14 grates a day. The resin needed 24 hours to cure, and we kept the space at a sweltering 70 degrees for about a week straight. Jason was thrilled.

After the resin was poured and cured in the slots, we poured another thin layer on top of and rolled it out with a paint roller. Then we let that sit and cure for another 24 hours.

With the resin tops curing, we cleaned out the drainage ditch and decided we should paint it white so that we could get the most reflection for the lights we planned on putting in. We placed all the grates and plugged the lights in. Totally rewarding.  The extension cord is a temporary solution for power – its placed right about where our reception desk will be, and a more permanent power method will be employed once we have the lobby area ready.

Repurposing these grates was the best solution for the space. If we hadn’t made these grates safety compliant, they would have ended up in a landfill. ):

Now we have a grate one-of-a-kind feature in our space that will outlive us all!

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